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From music notes to coffee notes….classically-trained pianist Stephen Chen is helping create harmony of a different type as a barista at Adelaide’s Finest.

Stephen is part of the talented Mr Nick’s Frewville and Pasadena team during the week and, when the weekend rolls around, he works as a barista trainer at a coffee school.  

His barista career began when he was 19 and working at cafes while studying a Bachelor of Music at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. Stephen writes his own compositions, records music and is also a singer but he’s made coffee his career for now. He attends coffee competitions such as the recent Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) where he worked as a stage assistant and brew bar barista.

Filter coffee is Stephen’s favourite brew style and, while he admits espresso is king with Mr Nick’s customers, he encourages coffee drinkers to give filter a go.

“You find in the professional coffee world most baristas prefer filter coffee than espresso. You get a cleaner, better taste and you can pick up all the flavour notes and nuances from single origin beans more clearly,” he says.

Stephen has worked across all areas of the Frewville store from checkout to the deli, in grocery, online shopping and now Mr Nick’s where he loves his customer-facing role.  

“I love the interaction with customers, especially from people who know about a bit more about coffee or want to know more. If they have questions about the beans we use or the blends we have, we’re always happy to explain anything,” he says.

Stephen’s tip: Anaerobic coffee is one of the latest trends in the specialty coffee scene.

Anaerobic coffee is processed differently to showcase the punchy flavours and bright, fresh quality of the beans. Other styles of coffee are made using open fermentation when the air interacts with the beans but anaerobic coffee is made in a sealed environment, reducing the beans’ exposure to air.  Coffee is put in an enclosed container (a barrel or tank) for hours or days and then it’s dried. Stephen says this results in a rich mouthfeel with concentrated fruit flavorrs and sweetness.   Adelaide’s Finest’s coffee supplier Paradox Coffee Roasters produce anaerobic coffee which is available at Mr Nick’s.

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